When I was writing You First, I was looking for a subtitle that conveyed a strong message about the importance of team effectiveness to productivity. In a flash of insight, I came up with “Inspire your team to grow up, get along, and get stuff done.” That title still makes me smile. [Of course those who know me know the word “stuff” was a compromise, but you get the point.]

I dedicate a lot of time on the ChangeYourTeam blog to the “grow up” part and the “get along” part, but today I’m frustrated by teams that aren’t willing to do what it takes to “get stuff done.” Specifically, I’m fed up with people who think that their job is just to do good work, regardless of whether they accomplish anything or not. When they aren’t successful, they just blame others.

“I did my best.”

“Now we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out.”

“I’m not sure this one is going to get past Bob.”

“We did what we could do on our part.”

As soon as I hear one of these statements, I know I’m dealing with a team that doesn’t appreciate the difference between “doing stuff” and “getting stuff done.” The “do stuff” teams take solace in putting in effort but take no accountability for achieving the intended outcome. The “get stuff done” teams know that an A for effort isn’t good for much and go the extra mile to ensure their work bears fruit.

That extra mile is almost always about influencing others who are required to fully implement your work. So today I’m providing a simplified version of my approach to influencing stakeholders. If you haven’t done so, I highly encourage you to devote a couple of hours at an upcoming team meeting to answer these steps.

Influencing Stakeholders

  1. Map your stakeholders. Does your team know who its key stakeholders are? With whom are you interdependent? Who do you rely on to provide inputs to your work? Who is working on parallel components of the project at the same time as you? Who receives the outputs of your work? Which teams are mostly distinct but occasionally very important (hello Finance and Compliance)? Draw the map of your stakeholders.
  2. Understand where power rests. Who has power in the organization? Who can make you successful? Who can cause you to fail? What is their power over you? Who has power upward with the senior leaders? Who has power and influence with the people? Who confers power in your organization and on what merits? Indicate these powerful stakeholders on your map.
  3. Make the most of champions. Identify where you have key stakeholders, with power, who support your cause. Now come up with a plan to invest heavily in those relationships. Are you meeting regularly to make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish? Are you explicit about what you need and how they could help you get it? Do you nurture the relationships by providing reciprocal assistance and especially by paying it forward without expecting anything in return? Unfortunately, you’re probably so busy trying to deal with the detractors that you forget to show the love to the people you can count on. Develop your champion strategy.
  4. Use indirect approaches with the blockers. If there are people in key roles who don’t see things your way, it might be an uphill battle to try to influence them directly. In those cases, you need to zoom out and look at whom you could use to bridge the gap. Does your blocker have a direct report who sees eye to eye with you? Are there third parties who hold sway? Sometimes you’re best to let someone else do your influencing for you. Develop your blocker strategy.
  5. Assign relationship owners. The best stakeholder maps in the world aren’t going to help you if you don’t invest the time in really talking to people and listening to their views of the situation. Assign one team member for each person you’re trying to build (or resurrect) a relationship with. Talk about the strategy the person will use and then get frequent updates on how it’s going. Do 20% talking and 80% listening. Ask questions such as “what does this project need to accomplish to be a success in your eyes,” or “what do you see as the risks of this approach,” and “how could we ensure this approach is successful?” Make sure each champion, blocker, and influencer has someone assigned and a plan developed.
  6. Lobby for shared goals. Even the best stakeholder management won’t help if you’re being pulled in different directions. Sadly, while many organizations profess a desire for collaboration, their measurement systems and rewards reinforce the exact opposite. To the extent possible, your team leader should be encouraging her leader to fight for shared goals that give everyone the same definition of success and therefore motivate everyone to cooperate.

I recommend that you do this kind of stakeholder mapping at least a couple times each year. If you’re trying to push a boulder up a mountain, it could be a monthly or even a weekly topic on your agenda. If your first strategy isn’t working or if one team member isn’t making headway, regroup and try a different approach.

Detailed stakeholder maps, good influence strategies, and a big investment in listening and adapting your approach to meet everyone’s needs will mean the difference between doing stuff and getting stuff done.

Further Reading

Managing underground conflict

10 questions to increase collaboration

What to say to someone resisting change

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